July 6, Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30
Amid hostility and resistance, Jesus can still find time to praise God. Yet the prayer of Jesus can sound somewhat strange to our ears. Jesus is making the point that it is the humble, the childlike and the lowly who are the most receptive to the message of God. The wise and intelligent can be deceived by putting too much faith in their own cleverness. Jesus invites all those who can see beyond his appearance — to his real nature — to enter into a relationship with him.
We are reminded here that appearances can be deceptive. John was seen as too holy, and Jesus as not holy enough. How often do we fall into the trap of judging others by appearances? Is there a challenge here to the Church in how we live out God’s call?
July 13, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Despite the losses noted in the story, Jesus paints a picture of astonishing success for those who hear his words and practice his teachings. The seeds on the good soil bring forth an abundant harvest. Jesus’ words also remind us that acceptance of the gospel will always face difficulties in an unbelieving world.
The sown words of Jesus result in both complete failures and spectacular success. The sower accepts the risk of failure, trying different soils in order to produce a good crop. Consider whether we, as the Church, are prepared to risk failure in the same way. Have we become too “safe” in what we are prepared to do, to spread the gospel?
July 20, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Most of us love to look at, or stroll around, a garden that’s well cared for. But such gardens are a lot of hard work and must be tended regularly. Despite the care, gardeners find themselves waging a constant battle against weeds.
If we imagine our society as a garden, who are the weeds in it? And how are we meant to respond to them? In our society today, where many are increasingly alienated, oppressed or unloved, is it any wonder that the garden of our community has many who wrongly see themselves as “weeds”?
If we take the message of this parable at face value, it may seem that all we have to do is to have faith ourselves, and not worry about our societal weeds. But Jesus elsewhere challenges us to look after the poor and disadvantaged (such as Matthew 6:1-4). How can the church help the “weeds” of our local communities?
July 27, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Jesus often speaks about the nature and progress of the kingdom of God as beginning small and developing into something very large. He also speaks of it as something worth giving up everything for. The “good news of the kingdom” is to be proclaimed, to tell all people of its imminent arrival.
The inheritors of the kingdom are “the righteous”. They have clearly defined ethical behaviour laid out for them to follow. More is required of them than mere faith in Jesus. They are exhorted to do and teach even the least of the commandments (5:19) and to do the will of the Father (7:21-23).
The Church is called to catch the vision of God’s kingdom and to further its work. Consider how your Church could be an agent of growth and transformation in your community.
This Lectionary Reflection was prepared by Rev. Elizabeth Raine who ministers at Wauchope Uniting Church and is the Southern Zone Minister for Mid North Coast Presbytery